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Have you ever dreamed of volunteering in a faraway land — teaching English to eager young children or building a home for a hardworking family?

If you have a giving heart and a thirst for adventure, you probably have. Sharing your love with the world is a beautiful idea, but in reality, you will gain as much (or more) than the people you help.

4 Valuable Life Lessons You’ll Learn from Volunteering Abroad

Specifically, here are four important life lessons you’ll learn from volunteering abroad:

1. You are stronger than you think. 

The thought of traveling abroad may scare you: you may think you’re not brave or smart or cool enough to explore a foreign country. But once you do it, you’ll be surprised by your own strength. You’ll have navigated complicated airports on your own, successfully bargained for mangos at the local market, and carried more lumber than you ever thought you could. Volunteering abroad forces you to believe in and trust yourself like nothing else does.

2. You can make a difference.

It’s easy to say to yourself: “Who am I? I can’t help anybody,” but that’s just an excuse.

Anyone can make a difference — even (especially!) you. If you can read this post, you can teach English to women in Thailand. If you can kick a soccer ball, you can bring joy to young children in Tanzania. If you can smile, you can offer a bit of encouragement to someone who really needs it.

Whether in a foreign country or your own neighborhood, volunteering abroad will teach you that it doesn’t take much to be the sunshine in someone’s rainy day.

3. You have so many things to be grateful for.

Have you ever heard the phrase “first world problems”? It’s a quip or hashtag people use when referring to issues only a privileged person could complain about.

One example is when you lament about your shower being lukewarm. Once you’ve volunteered abroad, you’ll learn how miraculous it is that water even comes out of a faucet within your home — not to mention that it’s heated!

Experiencing life outside of the “first world” will show you the infinite reasons you have to be grateful; it may also make you think twice before complaining about something that, ultimately, is fairly trivial.

4. You always have a choice.

Every day, you face hundreds of choices, from what to wear to how to treat your waitress. Volunteering abroad reminds you that you always have control over how you respond to the world — and that your choices do affect other people.

In each moment and conversation, you can be kind or rude; forgiving or resentful. Volunteering abroad will inspire you to make better choices every day because you’ll see how even the smallest actions can create a ripple of change that makes the world a better place.

Would you like to volunteer abroad? Where

 

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Susan Shain

Susan Shain works with Discover Corps, the only volunteer vacation organization that partners with the National Peace Corps Association. She believes the best way to discover a country is through its people. To discover more Susan and the work she does, visit www.thevolunteertraveler.discovercorps.com.

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